Understanding Inner Evil in Mass-Killers

Evil begins with inner conflict in the psyche.

Evil begins with conflict in the psyche.

Domestic mass-killers believe that the hatred they feel toward others justifies their murderous behavior. They don’t understand that other people and social circumstances are not the cause of their rage and hatred. The evil begins with what potential and actual mass-killers are doing to themselves on an inner level.

In this post I enlist depth psychology to explain these inner dynamics at play in the psyche of such individuals. Further along, I’ll look at the particular case of the mass-killer who struck last month in Orlando.

The following psychological dynamics and characteristics can converge as the “perfect storm,” producing an individual ready to embark on a mass-killing spree. Here are some of the major elements at play in the psyche of such individuals:

* Whether or not they are inflicted with a mental-health disorder, these individuals are nonetheless highly dysfunctional or neurotic. This means they are plagued by intense inner conflict, particularly in terms of how they absorb abuse from their inner critic and in terms of how they inwardly create the impression of being marginalized, insignificant, and alienated from self and surrounding society.

* They feel devalued, unworthy, and disconnected from their better nature. Hence, they lack sensitive or generous impulses or instincts toward others. Such an individual is highly thin-skinned and easily takes offense, meaning he is quick to interpret everyday encounters with others as if he is being overlooked, rejected, or disrespected. [Read more…]

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Who Wants to Be a Celebrity?

Fans of celebrities settle for crumbs at the banquet of their own greatness.

Fans of celebrities settle for crumbs at the banquet of their own greatness.

Lots of people feel unrecognized and unappreciated. They experience themselves to a considerable degree through feelings of being unworthy and unloved.

When such people spot a celebrity in the flesh, they have an emotional reaction that usually varies according to their self-esteem and also to the degree in which the celebrity is famous. A celebrity’s ranking on the billboards of stardom determines his or her status in their eyes.

If the celebrity they see on the street is the local TV weatherman, their eyes might soak him or her up for an instant or two, and then they’ll probably go about their business with a minimum of emotional disruption. However, if the celebrity is a high-flying Hollywood movie star, their eyes fasten like rivets to this person. They’re likely to slip into a woozy state of disequilibrium complete with rapid pulse and sweaty palms.

The lower one’s self-esteem, the greater the emotional thrill that’s experienced in the presence of a celebrity. The ubiquity of celebrities is a cultural anomaly that flourishes under the auspices of the low self-esteem of the masses. Low self-esteem also signifies more time spent fantasizing about being a celebrity. Many celebrities, meanwhile, are emotionally dependent on the adulation they receive from us. [Read more…]

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Say Goodbye to Your Regrets

We can resist letting go of our regrets.

We can be very resistant to letting go of our regrets.

“I don’t think I can every let go of my regrets,” a new client sadly remarked. She was saying, indirectly, that she didn’t know how to live without her grief, sorrow, and self-recrimination.

Regrets are precious to the dark side of our psyche. They’re used, as well, by our psychological defenses, as I explain further along.

Sure, we might say we want to be free of all regrets. Deep in our psyche, nonetheless, we cling quite stubbornly or perversely to them.

Who in their right mind, we wonder, would want to be the stooped-over bearer of old regrets? The extra tonnage on our emotional life obviously produces unhappiness. Yet many millions of people carry this burden to the grave. This suffering is completely unnecessary. All that’s needed to drop this heavy load is the right self-knowledge.

“Never look back, unless you’re planning to go that way,” Henry David Thoreau famously said. Unfortunately, a lot of people do plan to go that way—or, more accurately, are compelled to go that way—in search of their favorite varieties of suffering, thanks to hidden dynamics in their unconscious mind. [Read more…]

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Defeating the Inner Bully

We can defeat the inner bully when we connect with our self.

We can defeat the inner bully by connecting with our authentic self.

I cringe at the childishness of modern psychology. In trying to solve our emotional problems, it offers us kindergarten-level information. If computer science were performing at this level, we’d all be using learning laptops for children.

I found this article at the Psychology Today website, and unfortunately it’s typical of much of the psychological “knowledge” that comes our way. The article is titled, “26 Ways to Love Yourself More,” and each of the 26 ways consists of simplistic advice. When it comes to the unconscious mind, advice is practically useless. The unconscious mind isn’t impressed by advice because it doesn’t operate according to rational principles.

The unconscious is chaotic, conflicted, and irrational. The best way to penetrate it—and to learn to really love ourselves and each other more—is to possess the correct knowledge concerning the inner dynamics that produce negative emotions and self-alienation.

I’ll illustrate my point with one of the tidbits of advice from the article mentioned above (number 14 on the list). It reads: “Unfortunately, my inner dialogue isn’t always kind or accepting. When I catch myself engaging in negative self-talk, I remind myself that I am enough, that I’m doing good work, and that I have friends and family who love me.”

This comment is going to be about as effective as a little boy or girl telling a big mean bully: “You shouldn’t be mean to me because I’m a nice person.” A bully would snicker maliciously at this and enjoy his meanness all the more. [Read more…]

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A Deadly Case of Inner Conflict

Our struggle to make sense of what seems senseless.

These murders challenge us to make sense of what seems senseless.

We struggle to understand the mind of mass killers. Their evil actions blast away at the moorings of civilization and blacken the soul of humanity.

One of these acts of violence was investigated this month in The New Yorker magazine. The article, written by author and psychiatry lecturer Andrew Solomon, examines the life of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who shot and killed his mother, 20 children and six teachers, and then himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012.

Adam’s father, Peter Lanza, came forward to be interviewed by Solomon about his relationship with his son and about his understanding of his son’s mental health, in the hope of being helpful to others. Mr. Lanza has labored painfully since the day of the shootings to comprehend the horrific crime.

Adam Lanza, as Solomon’s article says, “was never typical.” He showed hypersensitivity at a young age, was diagnosed with sensory-integration disorder and later with Asperger’s syndrome (mild autism), and was susceptible to seizures. According to his father, he was “just a normal little weird kid” who displayed a sharp sense of humor and a keen intelligence. Although his emotional stability deteriorated through his teenage years, no one feared that he would become violent.

The article covers a lot of ground, yet still it leaves unanswered questions as to Adam’s motive for committing the atrocities. A forensic psychiatrist is quoted saying that Adam’s actions expressed this message: “I carry profound hurt—I’ll go ballistic and transfer it onto you.” Solomon, the author of the article, concludes that this statement reveals “as much motive as we’re likely to find.”

I believe, however, that we can acquire further insight into the killer’s state of mind, along with more understanding of his motive. [Read more…]

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Overcoming a Type of Resistance to Studying

Studying can be a lot easier when we understand inner passivity.

Studying can be a lot easier when we understand inner passivity.

This topic is addressed as an exchange of e-mails between me and a visitor to this website.

Reader’s comment: I have always been a studious person. Grades were important . . . I was also interested in learning and still am. However, now that I’m at university I’m avoiding studying. It’s not laziness or not caring. I feel fear. I have studied by myself all my life, so absence of family is not a big factor.

Whenever I do manage to study, I feel depressed afterwards. I feel like I have no energy, am mentally foggy, and at the mercy of my thoughts and criticism. All other life issues come back in full force, and I often cry. I also feel depressed again. I used to be very depressed, but now manage to keep it in check and mostly stand up for myself, except when it comes to studying.

Unfortunately, studying is necessary. I want to understand this reaction. More importantly, I want to feel pleased with myself after having studied for the allotted time. . . With all the inner work I’ve done, it feels as if this reaction has a strange power to put me right back to the beginning. I find it very painful.

Is it because studying is a “passive” thing to do? I feel much better after physical activity and such. But after studying, I feel robbed of the little inner strength and confidence I try hard to build every day. . . Why would this be? Do you have any ideas?

My response: I’ll suggest one possibility. Let me know whether you think it applies to you. Indeed, it appears that you’re having a passive reaction to studying. [Read more…]

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The Human Weakness behind Alcoholism

Alcoholism is caused by inner conflict.

Alcoholism is caused by inner conflict.

Many alcoholics and addictive personalities resist the idea that their plight is in any way due to character weakness. Any such allegation, they feel, categorizes them as substandard people who are to blame for their troubles. Weakness of character or “moral weakness” is not what causes alcoholism, one addiction website states emphatically. This is true, yet we can’t ignore the influence of a certain kind of inner weakness in the psyche.  

There’s an essential reason alcoholics are sensitive to this allegation that character weakness is behind their out-of-control drinking: Inwardly, this accusation is directed at them on a daily basis by their inner critic. The inner critic (superego) is a primitive, aggressive agency of the human psyche, and it berates alcoholics with allegations that range in intensity from “You should be trying harder to stay sober!” to “You worthless, no good loser! Look at you! You’re truly disgusting!”

Everyone has an inner critic or superego, and for many of us that part of our psyche has assumed the role of the master of our personality. It can harass and scorn us for the slightest misdemeanors. Our inner critic can attack us for a wide variety of alleged “crimes,” most viciously for the idea that we are somehow a failure or a loser. In some people, the inner critic is an absolute tyrant that causes much of their unhappiness and suffering. 

Unconsciously, we give credence to these allegations. We become inwardly defensive and absorb emotionally the negative charges directed against us. As alcoholics struggle defensively to deflect these charges, they might say, “It’s not that big a problem” or “I’m trying, it’s not my fault, I don’t know what comes over me.” [Read more…]

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Men’s Resistance to Women’s Empowerment

Men have to grow in themselves to encourage women's empowerment.

Men have to grow to encourage women’s empowerment.

A lack of fairness and justice still handicaps women, and the causes for such discrimination run deep into the recesses of the human psyche. Humanity can only progress to the degree that women do. So we need to root out some of the primitive elements of this inequity.

Injustice surfaces everywhere. “Women are still the majority of the world’s poor, the uneducated, the unhealthy, the unfed,” Hillary Clinton said in a speech to the United Nations. “Simply put, the world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls in the 21st century are denied their rights and left behind.”  

For the most part, men are not being malicious. Their discriminating reactions arise from psychological influences that are largely unconscious. The “feminine discount” problem stems in part from an age-old mentality that still perceives social relations in terms of who is superior and who is inferior. This mentality, dating back hundreds or thousands of generations, has been acted out by both sexes through religious affiliation (“my religion is superior to yours”), wealth (“my wealth puts me in a better class of people”), race (“my race is superior to yours”), intelligence (“I am smarter and therefore obviously better than you”), political power (“my authority makes me a superior person”), and gender (“as a man, I am more powerful and therefore better than women.”)  

This mentality works both ways: while many people of both sexes eagerly believe in their superiority, many others passively accept their alleged inferiority without inner ripples of protest or rebellion. Either way, people are exhibiting a lack of consciousness or evolvement. The missing ingredient is an emotional and mental connection to one’s intrinsic value and goodness.  [Read more…]

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The Missing Link in OCD

The missing link lurks in our psyche behind the symptoms.

The missing link lurks in our psyche behind the painful symptoms.

You can’t touch it, see it, or smell it. But it’s there all the time, the hidden instigator of numerous human ailments and miseries including obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Experts attribute obsessive-compulsive disorder to various sources such as genetic factors and dysfunctional brain processes, as well as allergies and other sensory problems that produce anxiety and stress. Yet a common cause of OCD—inner passivity in the human psyche—is hardly ever mentioned. The fingerprint of inner passivity can be found on all the common expressions of OCD.

Readers of the posts at this website are familiar with my descriptions of inner passivity. This inner condition was first identified in classical psychoanalysis as an extension of the subordinate or unconscious ego. I have shown how inner passivity is an emotional weakness that is linked to many painful and self-defeating experiences and behaviors such as anxiety, depression, procrastination, shame, guilt, panic attacks, and addictions. In this post, I provide explanations that show how inner passivity is the common link among the primary types and symptoms of OCD.

Inner passivity is a hidden glitch in human nature, and it can plague us even when in daily life we’re capable of being assertive and effective. As one of its most striking features, inner passivity, when experienced acutely, causes us to become emotionally entangled in a sense of helplessness and to feel overwhelmed by the everyday challenges of life. (Read, Lost in the Fog of Inner Passivity.)

One of the most common forms of OCD is called “checking.” People become anxious that they’ve failed to lock a door, switch off lights, or turn off the stove or toaster. Some OCD sufferers have persistent fears of hitting pedestrians while driving. [Read more…]

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The Double Barrels of Gun Mania

Psychological issues lurk in the psyche of staunch gun-rights defenders.

Psychological issues lurk in the psyche of many staunch gun-rights defenders.

We all agree about the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Perhaps we also need to look at some psychological issues influencing staunch defenders of gun rights. Many of these individuals are not paragons of mental health because two of their unrecognized emotional issues are triggering a double-barreled blast of self-defeat.

Before looking down these barrels, let us acknowledge our human temptation to become enthralled by objects such as guns. We love our playthings such as cars and boats. Collectors love their guns, coins, stamps, antiques, model trains, and so on. This interest or fascination can be harmless enough and a source of considerable enjoyment. Yet psychological development is impeded when we use a possession such as a luxury car or expensive painting to provide status or fill an inner emptiness. Our enthusiasm for possessions can rise to the level of a fixation or obsession, at which point our lack of self-development causes us to lose perspective and sell short the richness of our essential self.

Because guns are relatively inexpensive, they’re not usually purchased for status. Instead, they provide two psychological defenses—the double barrels of self-defeat—that make their ownership so desirable. One barrel discharges the illusion of safety and the other the illusion of power. Why do so many gun owners grasp at these illusions or inner defenses? [Read more…]

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